Orville Peck Talks Inaugural Palomino Festival And Bolstering LGBTQ Representation In Country Music

On July 9, the first annual Palomino Festival will take place at the Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and it will celebrate the most innovative and boundary-pushing artists under the country music umbrella including folk, pop, bluegrass, and everything in between. The event will include a mix of icons as well as new talent including Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson & Family, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Nikki Lane, Jaime Wyatt, Amythyst Kiah and the incomparable masked and fringed Orville Peck.

The California country music festival comes from the team behind Stagecoach and puts the spotlight on artists that are redefining how country music can look and sound – and Peck is definitely one of the artists leading the charge. GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with the enigmatic artist and he opened up about his art as well as his participation in the first Palomino Festival. 

“I'm really thrilled. The kind of country music that I love is not just your typical kind of top 40, run-of-the-mill country that everyone gets,” said Peck. “It’s a beautifully diverse line up and I think it’s a true representation of where our country is and where it’s moving more towards on a mainstream level.”

Peck, who was born in South Africa but lived in Canada for a lot of his life, talked to GLAAD about his musical journey. In addition, he talked about how the country music landscape has changed from the use of the electric guitar in country to the “outlaw movement” in the ‘70s and ‘80s to the pop movement that happened in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s with Shania Twain and Faith Hill.

Now, as the world continues to go through its own changes, the country music genre is reflecting that with artists like Lil Nas X’s status quo-shaking collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus as well as ally and GLAAD Media Award honoree Kacey Musgraves, who refers to the progress in the genre as a “slow burn”.



Specifically, Peck says the LGBTQ representation in country music is a long time coming. “I think it's always existed within country music, of course,” said Peck. “I think it's finally at a point where that shift is sort of happening on the mainstream level and I feel very confident that in the next 5 to 10 years, I don't think it will be strange that there will be a lot more LGBTQ inclusion [in country music].”

There are many music genres that aren’t necessarily ideal for a queer artist to shine. Country music and hip hop are two genres that have a history of tacitly being a space where  LGBTQ artists aren’t really welcomed. Peck was very cognizant that traditionally, this wouldn’t be a genre where he could thrive. As he was coming up in the scene, he didn’t let that stop him.

“I wasn't growing up listening to any gay men that I could relate to in country music, but I definitely related to a lot of the stories that were being told, which I thought resonated beyond anything to do with sexuality or gender,” said Peck. “I always felt a part of it, but maybe that's just because I chose to ignore any kind of barrier about that.”

He started to break down barriers with representation of queer people in country music at the start of his career, but wasn’t until he was in his mid-20s that he realized that he was able to pursue his passion with “complete authenticity, sincerity and embarrassing, earnest vulnerability.”

“That's actually the key to what I think will not only make me happy, but will allow other people to connect with [me],” he added.

Peck released his second studio album Bronco in April and it has definitely connected with audiences no matter how they identify themselves. That said, Peck said he felt like his music unapologetically reflects his own identity.

“I've never felt the need to be secretive about who I am in any part of my career even since I was pretty young,” he explained. “I always approached things in this kind of a petty resilience where if someone told me can't do something, it makes me want to do it even more… and I also want to do it better than everyone else. I just have always been that way.”

Peck acknowledges that he is on a platform in music that is scarce when it comes to LGBTQ representation. He also recognizes that many queer people are looking to him as he opens the door wider to inclusivity in country music. He is making queer people feel seen.

Peck told GLAAD that he is very appreciative of those reaching out to him but at the same time, his identity as a gay man has never been the central focus of how he makes his music.

“I just write from my experiences and I don't think of it as a mandate,” he admits. “Now that I've connected with so many fans, I understand how important and how much my perspective means to people.”

Peck continued to say that he has taken his platform as a “conscious agenda” because of the moving messages he has received from people from small towns and those who grew up listening to country music.  They now have someone who helps represent their perspective in the genre.

“I take it on as a very serious responsibility and I'm very, very happy to do it,” said Peck. “It makes me feel great.”

Recently, Peck stepped out of his mysterious persona and joined his friend Trixie Mattel on her new series “Trixie Motel” which follows the Drag Queen renovating and designing a Palm Springs boutique motel. 



A post shared by Trixie Motel (@trixiemotel)


“You know, it's like I don't think it was necessarily on my bucket list!  We are really good friends in real life obviously and we spend a lot of time together so it's it's always fun to work with her.  It was lovely to be able to just do something together where we could essentially just laugh and make fun of one another which is kind of what we do just in our everyday lives!”

You can get your tickets to see Orville Peck at the Palomino Festival on July 9 at PalominoPasadena.com and his album Bronco is available now.